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Battle Royale For My Heart

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The Olympus stadium was absolutely bursting with spectators and staff. People from all over the world had poured into the luxurious seats with snacks and drinks and cameras, and of course their VR headsets that were either specially bought at the stadium or brought from home. All the stadium bought headsets bore the special tournament sigil, a golden pickaxe within an ‘O’ for Olympus. Despite popular rumour, the Olympus headsets were actually more affordable, by half the price of retail stores.

The mother of this tournament, Historia Reiss, had development the entire system with cost in mind. She made the tournaments so cheap that someone could beg for change on the street and then catch a game in the evening. She’s said often in interviews that the game was for entertainment, not money. She had more money than she needed anyway, and she was happy to share that wealth with as many people as she could.

And so, to Mikasa’s amusement, Historia also funded all of the tournament teams. She was their sole sponsor, with other sponsors allowed to sign contracts with players should they wish, but Historia wasn’t a fan of capitalism and those that respected her often ignored other big brands and stuck with hers.

“You ready, Mikasa?” Eren asked her, punching the air in front of him, warming up.

Mikasa dragged her eyes away from the immense crowd and stared at his face. Armin was beside Eren, carefully studying his personal guidebook.

“Sure,” she told him.

“We’re going up against the Lions,” Armin told them seriously.

Mikasa’s lips quirked. “That’s assuming we make it to the end.”

Armin’s clear blue eyes flicked up and met hers, and his lips twitched into a smirk. “Are you assuming we won’t?”

Mikasa chuckled. Eren dropped to the floor and started doing push-ups. “Eren, you don’t need to exert yourself like this,” she told him in exasperation. “It’s VR, not actual sports.”

Eren hopped back onto his feet and stretched some more. “Don’t care. Exercise helps clear my mind.” He was already sweating, probably from nerves. Mikasa didn’t really care, but she knew the crowd and attention got to Eren. “Gotta get the blood flowing, you know?”

Mikasa bobbed her head. She turned her attention back to the stadium. They were waiting off to the side, hidden inside a tunnel that led to the rooms within the stadium, where players could rest up, train, sleep or whatever they needed. Sasha jogged up to them, puffing on short breaths.

“I overslept!” she gasped out and bent over. “Connie put my alarm off.”

Eren snorted. “Will you tell your boyfriend to stop trying to jeopardize this team?”

Sasha balked. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

“He’s an enemy,” Armin interjected plainly. Sasha seemed to deflate, because he was right, but she shrugged.

“So what? I couldn’t tell him not to join the Lions. And we didn’t have another open spot in the Jaegers! He didn’t want to be a set-aside.”

Mikasa sighed lightly. Teams usually consisted of four, because the game was played in squads of four. Sometimes a team accepted more than four players in case something happened during an important game and they needed a fill in. Those players were known as set-asides, and it wasn’t a thing of pride to be one. For some teams, though, people didn’t mind being their set-asides. Connie wasn’t one such person, though.

“Just don’t lose to him,” Mikasa told her.

Sasha cackled. “Oh, it will be my pleasure to destroy him in battle!”

“Good,” Armin said, turning back to study his notes. “Most of the teams this year are new. Griffins, Shadows, Pheonix, Bad Moms, Superweebs—” he paused to regain his composure, cleared his throat, “—ahem, among many others. Who we really need to worry about is the Lions, the Cleaners and Commanders.” He flipped a page. “Lions consist of Annie Leonhardt, Reiner Braun, Berthold Hoover and Connie Springer. Annie is their captain, has led them to fourth victories in the past four years. Reiner acts as their shield, favours heavy weaponry and jumping right out at an opponent. Berthold perfected the art of defence, has amazing building skills. He’s more likely to build you in than go for the kill, though. He’s a scaredy-cat and hates 1v1. Connie is their wildcard, is often given the traps and bombs and any weapon with high damage. He’ll usually sneak in from the back and kill you before you even realize he’s there, or how he did it.” He took a deep breath.

“The Cleaners—Levi Ackerman, who is not related to Mikasa per her insistence,” Armin said with a grin, and Mikasa rolled her eyes, “their captain and master builder. His looting abilities are insane and he’ll clean out the battlefield before you even have a chance to notice fallen loot. Supply drops are usually his the second he sets his sights on them, and chests. Second is Kenny Ackerman, Levi’s uncle. He’s a heavy hitter, but he only plays with pistols. He’s the number one pistol user in the entire world, with the most kills anyone has ever seen with just a pistol. His team usually pass those weapons over to him. Thirdly Nanaba Reber, their medic of sorts. She keeps shields, bandages and med-kits well in hand and distributes them as needed. She’s the most skilled at avoiding shots, and can ran across an open field with an entire squad at her back, and not take one bit of damage until she reaches her fallen team member. Lastly we have Petra Ral, a weaker player than the other three, but specializes in sniping. She’s usually apart from her team, sets up somewhere high where she can snipe. Often seen around Levi before he jumps off to build somewhere else.

“Commanders—Erwin Smith, acting captain and veteran player. Still holds the most tournament wins in history. Has created most of the tournament records that are yet to be broken. His second is Willie Tibur, the only rival to his record. Both are flexible in their play with movement, building and overpowering the enemy. They are extreme quick shots and their accuracy is insane. Hange Zoe, traps only. They specialize in coming up with creative ways to trick and kill opponents using nothing but traps and bombs. No one rivals them in this skill, in how they even use launch pads to make a kill. And lastly, Rico, their sniper master. She equally rivals Petra in skill.”

Armin took a large breath and expelled it.

“We have to kick ass no matter what,” Eren grumbled. “We need to show everyone that we’re not a joke.”

Last year they had ended up playing 4v1 against Lions, and lost. After that, spectators had taken to the internet with a flurry of memes all mocking the Jaegers for losing an “easy” game. Mikasa still remembered that tournament like it had been yesterday. It left a sour taste in her mouth, especially when she remembered the look of smug glee on Annie’s face when the Lions were announced the winner and the stadium went up in cheers. No, this time they needed to win. And Mikasa needed to, as well. Something incredibly vital rested on her victory.

Footsteps crunched behind them and they all turned, surprised, to see the Lions walk up beside them. They all wore their signature outfit, dark blue hoodies with their sigil of a Lioness on the front, jaws open wide to reveal sharp teeth. Behind the lion’s head were two claw streaks criss-crossing in red. The smallest of the group, Annie, let her hood drop and approached Mikasa with a dark look on her face.

“Ackerman,” Annie greeted, lifting her head.

Mikasa lifted a brow and crossed her arms over her chest. Their team chose tank-tops instead, bright red—Eren’s favoured colour—with their sigil, a fist smashing into a palm, with flames sparking around it. Annie’s eyes flicked to Mikasa’s biceps, and she made sure to flex them extra hard for show. Annie’s lips twitched.

“Leonhardt,” Mikasa said in return, trying her best not to smirk.

“Ready to get your ass kicked?” Annie asked her.

Mikasa smiled then. “No, not really. I’m more ready to kick yours. Not much to kick, anyway.”

Mikasa’s team all laughed and made jeers, and Annie’s team sent them glares. Reiner stepped forward to shadow Annie, so Eren stepped up at Mikasa’s side, just in case. “We’ll see,” Annie added. She gave their team a once over, smirked, and then turned her back on them.

“Mikasa,” a voice gasped out, fingers threading through her hair, tugging.

“What do you need?” she asked breathily, voice husky.

“You, Mikasa. Only you.”

Mikasa shivered. She turned her attention forward as well, just in time for the massive screens in the middle of the stadium to come to life, showing the freckled face of the host, Ymir Reiss.

“People of Olympus,” Ymir started, grinning wide. “Welcome to your 104th Fortnite tournament!” The crowd immediately burst out into loud, excited cheers. Ymir waited a beat for everyone to scream, then continued. She gave a short speech, giving a brief history of the Olympus stadium, of Historia and their marriage, to the teams all playing. She introduced the teams one by one, and as she named them they stepped into the stadium and headed for the seats in the centre. Their fans all screamed and waved flags or banners with messages for them. Ymir smartly left the most famous teams for last, and when she named the Jaegers, Mikasa’s pulse leapt.

When they stepped into the bright artificial light of the stadium, the cheering upped in volume. It was almost deafening. Ymir gave a brief rundown on their team, who they were and where they came from and what wins and losses they’d had, as well as a few impressive plays. When they reached their designated seats, Eren was already drenched in sweat. Armin took his hand to help his nerves, but that only served to make their fans go wild. Apparently people shipped Eren and Armin a great deal, going so far as to create a whole community about them, writing fanfiction and creating fanart. Armin often liked to consume all that junk and embarrass Eren with it, but what the fans didn’t know was that the two of them were actually dating.

It was weird for her, to think that people shipped them. Real life people. Some shipped her with Eren or with Armin, but the larger following shipped her with Sasha. She’d unfortunately seen some racy fanart of the two of them. Sasha got so embarrassed about it, but Mikasa only really got uncomfortable. However, about a year ago Mikasa had noticed that some people had started to ship her with Annie, especially after their last game and the petty face off they’d had, getting in each other’s faces almost as if they were going to fight.

Mikasa grinned. Now, that was quite the thought… Thinking of that only reminded her of the bet she and Annie had struck. If Mikasa won… well, she had to, no matter what. Because if Annie did? Mikasa bit her lip. Yeah, she didn’t even want to think about it.

Ymir finally called out the Lions, who received possibly the loudest screams ever. Once they were seated as well, Ymir went over the general rules and expectation of the game. Mikasa tuned her out and settled her headset on her head. She was immediately sucked into the virtual world, onto the small island off to the side where players waited for the battle bus. Most players had joined as well, even though they weren’t required to yet. Mikasa opened up the map, stared at it hovering in front of her.

“We should go to Dusty,” Eren piped up beside them, staring at his map too. Armin was doing the same.

“No,” Armin disagreed. “It’s not the best location for loot.”

“But it’s out of the way,” Eren argued.

“I say Moisty Mire,” Sasha piped up. “I love jumping around in that muck!”

“Ugh,” Eren groaned.

“Of course you do, Sasha,” Armin humoured. “We should head to the outskirt of Wailing Woods, loot what we can and round the forest. We might even find a llama if we’re lucky. They usually spawn that side.”

Mikasa set a waypoint on the map and flicked her map away. A random player ran up to her and started to dance the electro shuffle, but she rolled her eyes and turned away, so they hurried off, picked up a gun and started to randomly shoot stationary players. Mikasa hated this part of the game, standing around and waiting. She didn’t like to mindlessly run around, swinging her pickaxe, building or shooting, or dancing like an obnoxious fool. She’d only ever dance if she won, and even then, hardly.

“I say let’s drop straight in Tilted Towers,” Mikasa piped up. Everyone stopped to gape at her, so she shrugged. “What? Most of the newbies are gonna drop there. They always do. It’s a hotspot. We drop in first, take out as many as we can and get the best loot. We’ll have height advantage. Armin can build a suitable fort while Eren holds off our opponents and Sasha and I loot.”

They all seemed to consider it, but weren’t given more time to decide. The battle bus hooted loudly, warning them that they were about to head in game. Mikasa could vaguely hear the stadium and Ymir’s booming voice, but she’d turned down the volume of all that crap. All she wanted to focus on now was the game. She had to win.

The timer off to the right corner hit one second, and then they were in the bus, hovering over the giant map. No one spoke, only glanced nervously at each other. Mikasa flexed her fingers, counted in her head. She opened her map one last time to reassure herself, stared at her blue waypoint at Tilted, then closed it and ordered herself to focus. No one had placed a new waypoint, so she guessed they were going with her plan. A reckless plan. A crazy, wild, stupid plan. But they were pros. Their response time was impeccable. They would not die so easily at Tilted, despite how quickly casual gamers did.

Mikasa noticed that they were close enough, so she ejected herself from the bus and hurtled herself towards Tilted Towers, soaring over Loot Lake and its shimmering blue water. It had taken her a while to get used to the free falling of this game. It usually caused a lot of people to get anxiety attacks, because it felt so real. Epic had to install fall dampeners that allowed players to fall while not feeling or seeing the fall at all, helping them get over that portion of the game. But then, if they couldn’t even get through the drop, why were they even playing?

Mikasa timed her glider carefully, angling her body to get the best out of her descent. She sensed more than saw her team around her, and together they all successfully landed on the same building. However, two players from an opposing team did as well. Mikasa immediately pulled her axe from inventory and raced to the other players while Eren and Armin hacked away at the floor. Sasha managed to reach the only weapon on the roof, a grey tactical shotgun, and equipped it just as one enemy slashed at her. She took a 10 damage, but quickly dealt a headshot that knocked the person down immediately. Mikasa focused on her own enemy and started hacking away, dealing damage in the 15s and 20s, panicking the poor guy into running around and hopping around, but neither saved him. Sasha rounded on them quickly, shot him twice and eliminated him. She whirled around to the knocked down player and started to dance take the L, but then the player died, since the other members of their team must have as well.

Mikasa rushed to the square hole in the wall. Within, Armin and Eren had already gathered weapons and wood. Eren rushed to her, dropped mini shields and a green AR, then rushed off to defend the stairway where footsteps echoed.

Mikasa’s pulse was absolutely racing. She loved this—the rush, the excitement. No game was ever the same. No player had more advantage over the other than raw skill and luck. They were just as likely to die at the hands of a noob in this tower than they were at the hands of the Commanders. A new player could have found a scar, or placed a trap that they didn’t notice. It was all structured in a way that allowed everyone to play the game differently.

Mikasa drank the two shields and then followed her team down a level, breaking walls and stacked wooden pallets, building up her wood, steel and stone. She found a shield potion, drank it to 100 shields, and quickly snagged a blue pump shotgun. Eren was, as usual, powering ahead of them and encountered another team below. They managed to surprise him with a headshot, knocking him down.

“Mikasa, build!” Armin yelled, tossing a grenade, forcing the team to scatter before it exploded the floor beneath them. Luckily two dropped down, but another two were still on the same floor and ready to rumble. Mikasa opened her build and quickly constructed three walls in front of each other, then all around them until she and Eren were covered. She dropped down to revive him.

9.0 revive

“Gotta watch out there, champ,” Mikasa told him with a grin.

8.6 revive

“Goddamn it,” Eren snarled back. Glaring. “Hurry!”

6.2 revive

“You know it takes long. Not my fault.”

There were wild gunshots around them. A few tray bullets hit Mikasa’s walls, but she didn’t flinch. Sasha was yelling something to Armin, and someone was knocked down.

2.1 revive

“Come on, come on, come one!” Eren yelled.

Mikasa’s pulse raced. Someone was shotgunning her walls, bringing them down. Her fingers were twitching, but she was careful not to move too much or she’d have to restart the revive all over again. Just when the last wall came crashing down and Eren was allowed to stand, Mikasa switched over to her shotgun, raised it and shot off once, cleanly, and eliminated the player. Their whole team died as well, leaving behind an ocean of loot.

Eren cursed softly and used a medkit while Sasha and Armin ran around collecting ammo and resources. “That was cutting it close,” Armin told them.

“That was fucking lit!” Sasha yelled. She cocked her weapon, switched between her three different guns, over and over. She swapped her shotgun for a purple heavy shotgun and fist pumped the air. “Fuck yeah, I’m gonna murder with this.”

Eren got his shield up to 50 and then replaced some of his weapons with better ones. “Okay, fuck,” he growled. “Let’s go.”

The storms eye formed, showing that they had quite the distance to run despite having dropped at Tilted. They had 2 minutes to get their asses there before the storm formed, so they didn’t rush too badly. They left the building, ears listening to every distant footstep and gunshot. Armin decided it wasn’t worth it to engage, so they decided to leave, jumping and zig-zagging to avoid any sudden snipe.

They rushed down the slope towards Shifty Shafts, twisting and turning, switching weapons and keeping an key eye on their surroundings. Mikasa noticed that there were only 35 players remaining and she swallowed. Most of the teams had been taken out already. Had Annie made it? Were the Lions racing to the storm’s eye? Were they there already?

A bullet zipped past her head, making Mikasa step back and jump in reflex. She cursed and immediately built a wall in reflex, catching a bullet just in time. She built a ramp and crouched at the top, surveying the direction of the shot, and spotted someone standing beside a tree.

“Mika, here!” Sasha dropped a sniper and huddled by her. The boys had built more around them, strengthening their defence. Mikasa grabbed the sniper, switching it with a green SMG, and immediately focused her sights on the player. They were moving, crouching and jumping and generally being difficult. It was only with sheer luck that Mikasa pulled the trigger and knocked them down. The next shot was a skilful headshot, killing the player instantly.

They didn’t have time to confiscate the loot. Armin yelled for them to run, and so they did. The storm was closing in, but they were already making it into Salty Springs and thus, the safe zone. It was a battlefield.

Two teams were fighting to the death, each having built impressive forts in defence. Someone had an RPG and destroyed the other fort, but the other team had a skilled sniper that took out their last player, and the other team lost. Mikasa built a ramp, took aim and got a clean kill, but quickly jumped away when she was shot from behind, draining half her shields. She cursed and sought cover by a tree, but the team in the fort sniped her and her shields went down to 0, health to 40. Goddamnit.

“Mikasa, don’t die!” Eren yelled. He was going 1v1 with another player, wildly shooting his shotgun. Armin had managed to build himself an impressive fort, and took out the lone player that had sniped Mikasa, allowing her to breathe for a second.

She used her bandages until 75 health, then grabbed her sniper and took aim. She took one player out, knocked the other down. Eren managed to kill the one by him, but his health was dangerously low. They weren’t sure where the fourth player was, so they quickly huddled together and Mikasa built around them. Eren crouched and used another medkit

“Where do you always get those?” Mikasa muttered to him.

Light pink dusted his cheeks. “Armin,” he grumbled.

Mikasa laughed. A shot landed against the wall to her left, and she hurried to repair it. More shots followed, forcing her to repair and repair, worrying her that her wood was about to run out. Eren and Sasha finished healing up and filling their shields, and then one loud shot silence the others, and Armin shouted an all clear. Mikasa healed up as much as she could, accepted one mini from Sasha, then they rushed towards Moisty Mire, where the storm’s eye had closed in.

Looking up, she noted only 12 players remained. Roughly four teams.

When they reached Moisty, they were the first, so they immediately axed down some trees then built a high fort. Immediately they took damage from other players, and unfortunately Sasha was hit with a single sniper shot that took out her shields and half her health. Mikasa was surprised all four of them had remained to that point.

A player suddenly appeared to their right—Reiner—and Eren got hit by a flurry of shotgun shells. He was knocked down instantly, but Mikasa managed to throw a clinger that sent Reiner down. She cycled through to her scoped AR, took aim and shot, eliminating him. Distantly she could hear the roar of the stadium. Sasha went to revive Eren.

If Reiner was here, Annie was close. Mikasa’s entire body was thrumming with adrenalin and energy. She ran around their fort, up and down ramps, checking each and every direction she could. They appeared to be alone, even as the storm closed in. There were no players rushing out of the storm, and suddenly their player count dropped to 5. Mikasa gulped.

The circle closed even tighter, forcing them to abandon their fort and make for safer grounds. Once there, Armin built and built, but as he jumped while building a ramp, he was sniped and taken out. Mikasa swore loudly. Eren roared in anger and whirled around, searching for the sniper and only succeeded in getting sniped himself. Both him and Armin disappeared, leaving just Sasha and Mikasa. They picked up what loot they could, reinforced their fort and huddled, waiting. The area was absolutely quiet.

“They want us to move first,” Sasha panted, peeking over slightly before hunkering down again.

Mikasa nodded. “Yeah, especially if the storm’s eye closes away from us. Which it might.”

They had a couple seconds left. “I saw Berthold earlier,” Sasha said. “He probably sniped.”

“Annie must be out there too.”

“Yeah. I’ll take Berthold down, you go for Annie.”

They heard footsteps approach their fort, then stop. Someone was dancing the best mates, mocking them. It was definitely Annie. A shotgun went off, teasing, but nothing took damage. The storm’s eye closed even tighter, a distance away from them. Mikasa cursed. They had seconds. A bullet slammed into the wall, but Mikasa was able to see from which direction.

“Shit, he’s north, 15!”

The footsteps down below carried on. Mikasa and Sasha locked eyes, determined. Sasha jumped away first, guns blazing, building ramps to protect herself as Berthold attempted to snipe her. When she found him behind a tree, he immediately started to build around himself, but Sasha flustered him easily, and he ended up knocked down.

Mikasa followed the noise of the footsteps, then abandoned the fort, shotgun ready. She saw Annie a second before a shot rang out, and Sasha went down, too. The storm was at their backs.

Annie whirled around, got a successful shot on Mikasa’s hip, but she leapt away and started racing for safety, building walls behind her to protect from shots. She couldn’t believe she was about to 1v1 with Annie, during a goddamn tournament.

Mikasa made it to the storm’s eye, then built as high as she could until her resources ran out. She crouched down, panting and feeling as though she was sweating, even though this was entirely virtual and in here, she couldn’t sweat at all. They ended up playing chicken, not passing any shots, not pushing up on each other. They simple sat, and they waited. The storm’s eyes disappeared completely and they were both forced to move when they were engulfed by the angry purple of the storm.

Mikasa saw Annie racing towards her, gun drawn. She swapped to her shotgun, finger slamming on the trigger, but her heart stopped when it failed to shoot. She hadn’t reloaded. Fuck. She’d swapped to an AR when her shotgun had ran out of bullets and had never reloaded afterwards. It only took a second, but it was enough. Mikasa tried to swap to her AR, but Annie shot her once with a pump, and Mikasa went down. The storm was around them, dealing bad damage. Annie took a medkit, healing herself up, and Mikasa had nothing. She could only stare at the ground, tasting her own defeat.

“Chin up,” Annie told her smugly after approaching her. Mikasa could only stare at her dirtied boots. “Remember the terms of your loss, Mikasa. You can’t back out of this.”

Mikasa closed her hands into fists, clenching her teeth hard. “Annie, you little—”

The storm killed her before she could finish her retort, and then she slammed back into her body with a gasp. She threw her headset off and was immediately assaulted by the loud screaming of the stadium and the excited yelling of Ymir over the speakers. She didn’t care about any of that, not even that Annie was dancing on the giant screen above. Eren was trying to talk to her, probably tell her not to blame herself, but she was already out of her seat and rushing across the stage towards Annie, who had just taken off her headset with calm ease.

The crowd around them started to hush, everyone realizing where Mikasa was headed. Reiner tried to block her, but Annie stepped around him and then they were in front of each other, eyes blazing, mouths pressed into firms lines. Mikasa’s hands twitched.

“That was a fantastic game, Ackerman,” Annie told her, smirking now. “And as expected, mine.”

Mikasa glared. “You’re an evil little gnome,” she growled.

Annie feigned hurt, but laughed. “Come on Mikasa, you’ve got to do it.”

Ymir was muttering over the speakers, asking the audience if they thought a real fight would break out. People were yelling for them to throw a punch, draw real blood. Other players had gathered near, looking both eager and horrified. Eren looked bloodthirsty, like he was hoping Mikasa would start a brawl. What absolutely no one expected, was for Mikasa to drop down onto one knee.

“You’re so fucking unbelievable,” Mikasa told her in exasperation. “You had to make me do this, huh?”

Annie folded her arms across her chest, smirking. “There’s only one way I like it: extra.”

Mikasa felt her entire body flush with horror and embarrassment and she pulled a small black box out of her pocket. “I can’t believe you’re making me do this.”

Annie stared at her, waiting. Mikasa’s fingers were quivering. The cameras had zeroed in on them, the stadium almost completely silent as everyone waited in eagerness. After taking a steadying breath, Mikasa opened the box to reveal a silver ring.

“Annie Leonhardt,” Mikasa croaked. She cleared her throat and licked her dry lips. She could hear her own voice echoing around them. She paused for a while, pleading with her eyes, but Annie gave her a look. She sighed, defeated. “Will you marry me?”

As embarrassed as she felt, there was an intense surge of adrenalin and happiness when she saw the look of smug satisfaction on Annie’s face, and when she dropped down to pull her into a hard kiss. The spectators and fans all started to scream, and Ymir accidentally swore on air.

“Of course I’ll marry you,” Annie laughed, dragging her up from her knee and into a hug. “And thank you for going through with it. You’re a total badass.”

Mikasa was absolutely red, which she hated, because people thought she was the stone cold, stoic, unfeeling one. “Now everyone will know that I can actually feel,” she grumbled.

Annie laughed louder. There was mass chaos and confusion around them. Their phones started to ring, probably from friends or family and notifications from their social media accounts. But they ignored their phones, and everyone yelling and the cameras zooming around them.

Mikasa took Annie’s hand and jammed the ring on her finger, glad when it fit perfectly. “There,” Mikasa told her, smiling. “Now you’re stuck with me for life.”

Annie touched the ring, smiling softly. “Yeah, guess we are.”

They took each other’s hand and took stock of the wildness around them, and then decided it was time to make a quick retreat. “Think we’ll escape the paparazzi after this?” Annie asked her as they bolted for the tunnel.

Mikasa laughed. “Not at all. But hey, you wanted all this attention!”

Annie snorted. “I shouldn’t always get what I want sometimes.”

“Oh, don’t I know it.”

“But hey, I got two insanely good things tonight.”

They made it under the cover of the tunnel and stopped to catch their breath. Players were racing after them, mostly their own teams, so they only had seconds. “And what are those?” Mikasa asked.

“Well, I won the tournament. Again.” Mikasa forced her face to empty of emotion. Annie snickered at her and then stepped up and kissed her lips. “And I got you too, I guess,” she finished.

Mikasa shook her head. “What will I do with you, huh?”

“Love me, Mikasa. For as long as you can.”

Mikasa touched the ring on Annie’s finger. “Always.”